Friday, October 1, 2010

My First Ride Along

I completed my first ride along at Valley EMS a few weeks back.

It was a 12 hour shift from 8am to 8pm. Aside from the fact that every call we got was a code 3, lights and sirens, speeding down the road, adrenaline filled experience; the day was quite boring.

After I got to the station, met with the medics I would be riding with, and got settled in, everyone went to a local restaurant to have some breakfast. About halfway through the meal, our unit gets its first call. Code 3, lady in a local supermarket "fell". We're out the door, don't even pay, and on our way down the road lights and sirens. The adrenaline rush was great.

I was so excited to be going on my first call, and nervous about what I would expect and if I knew what I should do when we get there. The two medics worked great as a team as they approached intersections and navigated through morning traffic on the main streets. I felt like I was on a carnival ride as I sat on the jump seat in the back.

Then it got quiet. The rig slowed down and I leaned forward in the cab to hear the medics griping. The call was canceled and we were on our way back to pay for our breakfast.

I'm not sure what I got into but back at the station I had an overwhelming urge to "do my morning poo". You know that feeling you get when you're some where new and you need to go #2? You're nervous about your surroundings, you don't know the people, nor if the bathroom that you're looking at is even the one that you're allowed to use. Now add the fact that at any time while you're trying to "make it happen" on the pot, a call could come in and then you've REALLY got to go.

This was my predicament. I waited about an hour or so, nervous that I would sit down and get comfy on that porcelain throne, then get a call midway through. I finally came to the conclusion that the shift was at a slow point, and I had the time, so I went... And sure enough, it happened. Murphy's Law.

"STUDENT! STUDENT!" I guess they hadn't learned my name yet. I yelled from the bathroom, wiping frantically, telling them that I was coming. I ran out the door to the rig, just as they were ready to drive away.

It was another code 3 call. Difficulty breathing. We started rolling, I just buckled in when we stopped and they started to get out. I jumped out the back of the rig, looking at the station we just left (which sat just across the street). Our code 3 was waiting for us at a local doctors office, yes, right across the street from the station. The poor old man had some short, labored breathing, probably had a mild state of dementia, and was contracted to the shape of his wheel chair.

I helped the medics lift him from his chair on to the gurney and we left. In the rig I took what vitals I could. I was really there for observation, but I wanted to get that experience. I found that it was much harder to listen for breath sounds, and to get the blood pressure in a moving vehicle.

After that call we sat around the station for a good few hours. The guys joked around with eachother. I got to get a little insight to "intra-facility politics" and the like, but I found it mostly humorous. Most of the guys seem pretty cool.

We finally got another call. Code 3, lights and sirens, waaaay out in the boonies, lady having difficulty breathing. Turns out that she had congestive heart disease and was probably in the midst of having treatment for it. No obvious vital signs out of whack or anything but a mean case of pedal edema, which I got to check out first hand. It ended up being a typical BLS call.

Call 4. I'm not sure what the call was, but it was cancelled.

Then at last, an adrenaline call. Motor vehicle collision, we were off again. We get to the scene, it really is a minor collision. They probably hit each other going about 20mph. By the time I get the bag down and join the medics, the people involved have already refused transport. Another busted call. Strike two.

(Let me stop for a minute... Some of you might be reading and thinking, "This guy is twisted. Wanting stuff to happen to people?" That isn't the case. The fact is, things are going to happen, no matter what. I know this career isn't all adrenaline, blood and guts, and saving lives. But I have to experience 5 successful emergencies calls this day, and the day was going rather slow. I was also ready to get some experience in. So please don't think that I wish harm upon other people. I really just want to be able to learn so that when I am out there on my own as an EMT, I will have better knowledge of how to do my job.)

After spending more endless hours at the station, we get another emergency call. A child has fallen out of a grocery cart right on his head. This really was a basic call. The poor kid had a good knot on his head, and normally we would have immobilized his spine, but considering that he was intent on grasping onto his mother, we felt that placing them both on the stretcher would suffice.

Everything I read about head injuries in my text book pointed to c spine immobilization! c spine immobilization! c spine immobilization! But if we would have tried to immobilize this young child, who was already shy as hell and wondering what was going on, he would have made any spinal injury, if any, much worse. I hope he just got away with that bump and nothing else. He seemed to be doing alright.

I have one more shift of ride alongs to do, which I will be doing tomorrow. You can be sure that I will post those stories here as well. Hopefully I will get more hands-on experience as it is a Saturday...


  1. I had my first ride along yesterday and today. The second call we were dispatched to was a GSW to the head, I had to put a sheet over a guy who killed himself with a 9mm. Yeah, I would say that I had an interesting first day.

  2. I am signing up for my ride alongs tomorrow for my EMT class. I am trying to get paired up with a 911 rig that operates in Oakland, Ca. If you don't know much about Oakland, then I'll just say crime/gang wise, it is the Los Angeles/Compton of Northern California. Hopefully there won't be much lag time, but who knows, maybe I won't see as much as I think.

  3. On my first ride-along I had a Difficulty Breathing, Fall (which was a diabetic issue), Dialysis Tube bleed, Seizure (pt. faking and refused transport), and a Public Intox which turned into a fight with a drunk homeless woman who was hitting on the Paramedic while the entire E.R. was laughing - funny stuff! The last call of the day was actually the best - a homeless man from out of town walked up to the station complaining of being ill in order to go to the hospital so he could get some sleep. Our homeless shelter can be a little scary. The PM and Fire Chief assisted him by calling another city caseworker who ran an abuse shelter and were able to get him 1 night there while he made some arrangements to get back home. I witnessed true professionalism and compassion that day which further inspired me to continue in this career.


hit counter